Re: [A12n-Collab] Font companies serving academia/linguists

From: John Hudson (
Date: Mon Jul 04 2005 - 13:42:20 CDT

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    In my experience, there are two competing impulses among academic users. One is a desire
    for stability, focused on habits developed in using 8-bit font solutions and hacked
    encodings over many years. Users have developed work habits, and have sometimes large
    numbers of documents in these hacked encodings, all of which would need to be changed and
    converted for Unicode. On the other hand, there is recognition of the need for better and
    standard interchange and also, of course, the needs of electronic publishing, which makes
    Unicode attractive.

    The Society of Biblical Literature Font Foundation is a good example of an academic-led
    initiative, through which I've had to deal with both impulses. The primary goal of the
    foundation is to collaboratively fund the development of Unicode and OpenType font
    solutions for Biblical scholarship, to address the interchange issues that have plagued
    the field for many years. But this work also involves development of multiple keyboard
    drivers that mimic the input methods already in use with hacked encodings although,
    obviously, now entering correct Unicode values, and also development of Word macros and
    other tools to assist conversion of existing documents to Unicode. [A similar major effort
    was undertaken in the Canadian North after the encoding of aboriginal syllabics in
    Unicode. Documents in half a dozen or so different 8-bit encodings had to be converted
    using macros.] And some members of the foundation have immediate publishing needs using
    existing workflows that rely on hacked 8-bit encodings, and need to continue such
    publishing while gradually making the switch to Unicode. Last year, I was asked to make a
    version of the SBL Hebrew typeface that conformed to one such encoding, so that a
    foundation member could start utilising the new design within their existing workflow.
    Frankly, I was surprised -- and pleased -- that I've only had one such request.

    John Hudson

    Tiro Typeworks
    Vancouver, BC
    Currently reading:
    Truth and tolerance, by Benedict XVI, Cardinal Ratzinger as was
    An autobiography from the Jesuit underground, by William Weston SJ
    War (revised edition), by Gwynne Dyer

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